How to Choose & Fit the Best Insoles for Hiking

After a long hike, it’s natural for your feet to feel fatigued and even a little sore. Sometimes the pain and fatigue are a lot more intense than they should be. The good news is that there’s no need to have to suck it up.

Your boots may be made for walking, but your feet may need a little extra help. Especially if you’ve got flat feet or suffer from plantar fasciitis.

Choosing a good set of insoles can give you the heel support, arch support, and fatigue reduction that you otherwise wouldn’t get from your boots.

When hiking or backpacking it’s especially important that you’ve got good stability and an even distribution of pressure throughout a full range of motion. We’ve had a look at some of the best insoles for hiking and some special needs insoles too.

best insoles for backpacking
There are a lot of excellent insole options, but we decided to review the best ones for specific cases.

Best Insole for Arch Support

Superfeet Green

At a Glance:

  • Excellent arch support and weight distribution
  • Rigid design offers good stability
  • Anti-bacterial odor control coating
  • Not very durable

Feet with high or weak arches place an excessive amount of weight on the heel and ball of the foot. Superfeet Green insoles offer excellent arch support and incorporate some great design features to distribute the weight more evenly.

The deep heel cup provides excellent support and shock absorption. The stabilizer cap on the base of the insole offers excellent stability and structure by supporting the rear of the foot.

The effect of the contoured design and rigid foam is great arch support, reducing pressure on your heels and balls of your feet.

The closed-cell foam doesn’t breathe very well, but it does have an antibacterial odor-control coating. Also, these will only last around 300-500 miles before they’ll need replacing.

Best Insole for Flat Feet

Samurai Insoles

At a Glance:

  • Orthotic inserts and arch support specifically designed for flat feet
  • True sizing – fits most shoes without trimming
  • Lightweight, but great durability
  • Profile too thin for cushioning with heavier pack

These are the best insoles for flat feet. The orthotic inserts and arch support molds to your feet with just enough ‘give’ to still keep your foot stable.

The construction is lightweight but offers good durability. Just don’t expect too much cushioning from the low-profile design if you’re heavy or carry a heavy backpack.

For regular hiking, they do offer great relief and comfort if you’ve got flat feet or fallen arches.

We liked how accurate the sizing on these are. They fit into most shoes straight out of the box with little or no trimming required.

Best Insole for All-Round Comfort

Sof Sole Insoles Men’s Athlete Performance

At a Glance:

  • Neutral arch design fits most foot types
  • Gel pads in forefoot and heel offer great cushioning
  • Keeps feet feeling cool and dry
  • Extremely comfortable for a great price!
  • A little too much “give” when carrying a heavy pack

If you’re after all-round comfort with less focus on orthotics, then these are great.

The neutral arch design means that they’ll feel comfortable for most foot types. The gel pads in the forefoot and heel areas offer comfortable cushioning but may have a little too much give if you’re carrying a heavy pack.

If you’re not putting too much weight on them, then they feel great. Sof Sole have done a good job with the top fabric which has been treated to keep your feet cool, dry and free from bacteria.

The volume and profile of this model is low enough to wear over an existing insole, but they’ll probably be more comfortable when used on their own.

Best Heavy-Duty Insole

Powerstep Journey Hiker Shoe Insoles

At a Glance:

  • Firm arch support and heel cradle – stable on uneven surfaces
  • Good cushioning, impact reduction
  • Dual layer cushioning – good durability
  • Antimicrobial top fabric – good moisture and odor control
  • Arch may be a little high for some
These are ideal for backpacking, especially if you’re carrying a heavy pack.

The firmer foot support and heel cradle give you the rigidity you need on uneven surfaces while still offering extra cushioning for comfort. While they do a good job of stabilizing your feet, they also provide a fair amount of flexibility.

The dual layer closed cell foam construction is light and offers solid durability and long-lasting comfort. The antimicrobial fabric top layer reduces heat and friction, leaving your feet feeling great at the end of a hard day’s hike.

We’re not sure what the point of a camo print on an insole is, but overall these are great for heavy duty hiking.

Best Insole for Plantar Fasciitis

Nazaroo Orthotic Insoles

At a Glance:

  • Deep heel cradle enhances stability
  • Fabric has good anti-odor and moisture control
  • Inserts offer good arch support and pressure distribution
  • Price
  • Sizing runs a little large

The deep heel cup does a good job of keeping your foot aligned while the arch support stabilizes and supports the foot. Both of these factors relieve the symptoms of plantar fasciitis while activating your arches to prevent the onset of this painful condition.

We like that the composite fabric is designed to breathe well and wick away moisture from your feet. The material is also coated with an anti-odor treatment.

The sizing runs a little big, and they were quite wide so you might need to do a little trimming. Plantar fasciitis can sometimes be tough to relieve fully with an off the shelf solution but these will offer good relief from arch pain to most sufferers.

Custom orthotics can be expensive, so at this price these are worth a try before going the custom route.

Best Insole for Shock-Absorption

Timberland Pro Anti-Fatigue Insole

At a Glance:

  • Excellent shock-absorption and energy return
  • Contoured sole offers comfort in key impact and pressure zones
  • Lightweight
  • Neutral arch design – will fit most feet
  • Sizing runs a little big – easy to trim though

These insoles are designed to give you maximum shock absorption and energy return with every step. The neutral arch design adapts well to most feet.

It offers good, anti-fatigue foot support but is not orthotic. The inverted cone elements are designed to minimize impact by absorbing the pressure in the key pressure areas when your foot plants.

The cones compress and then rebound to return the energy to those key areas. The effect of this shock absorbing is that your feet feel less fatigued at the end of the day.

These feel great on the trail and are lightweight too.

Choosing & Using the Best Insoles for Hiking

Types Of Insole

Hiking insoles will typically fall into two categories: comfort and sport.

Comfort insoles are made from foam or gel and are designed to provide extra comfort under less strenuous hiking conditions. These provide extra cushioning and shock absorption to more “regular” shaped feet.

If you’re looking for more support and stability under taxing conditions then a sports insole is the way to go. These are made from rigid material that will have your feet mold the contours of the insole.

They offer better stability and are ideal for feet that need more structural support rather than simple cushioning.

What type of insoles are normally supplied with hiking boots?

Hiking boots will generally have an insole that is designed to provide “average” comfort to an “average” foot.

There will be some basic extra cushioning and some of the higher-end shoes will have some orthotic design elements to them. The firmness will vary with most hiking boots tending towards a firmer, more rigid insole.

Sometimes you’ll see shoes referred to as “control”, “cushion” or “neutral” which refers to the amount of structure built into the shoe and insole.

If you have no issues with your feet, then a neutral shoe/boot will be fine. If you prefer a bit more shock-absorption you’ll go for the cushion option, while shoes designated as “control” will have design features to control your gait and correct for things like over-pronation.

Variances in the shape and size of feet mean that a good pair of hiking shoes should get you pretty close to a good fit.

Most hiking boot insoles are removable. You could slip a thin profile one in on top. You could also remove the factory-fitted one the shoe came with and replace it with a higher volume one that feels just right for you.

What are the Benefits of Insoles?

  • Arch support
    Your arches are essentially the shock absorbers of your feet. If you have weak arches you’re going to be landing too heavily on your heels and you could end up with Plantar Fasciitis.A good insole will support your arch so that you get a more even weight distribution along your foot.
  • Comfort
    The additional cushioning that an insole provides will make your boots feel more comfortable.Having carefully-designed metatarsal pads, heel cushions and gel pockets in key areas to keep your feet feeling better than your hiking boots regular insole ever could.
  • Increased stability
    Stable feet provide a secure foundation for your entire frame while hiking. Hiking boots and shoes will have stability design elements but they only work if the shoe fits properly.A good insole will secure your foot inside your boot so that you benefit fully from the stability it was designed to provide.
  • Foot alignment and movement
    One of the main causes of blisters and heel-pain when hiking is heel slippage and poor foot alignment.A good insole will have a heel cushion that locks the heel into place and prevents your foot from slipping in the shoe.Correcting your specific foot structural alignment issues will translate into happier feet and in your ankles, knees, back, neck and hips.
  • Reduced fatigue
    A day of hiking will inevitably lead to some fatigue but the added shock absorbing and cushioning that an insole provides will reduce the fatigue you would otherwise experience.
  • Reduce symptoms of plantar fasciitis
    Plantar fasciitis is painful and is often caused, and aggravated, by hiking with shoes with poor foot support.A good insole will go beyond simple cushioning and will give your arches the support you need to land your foot properly.
    This puts less strain on your arches and achilles tendon and reduces the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
  • Odor control, antibacterial and antimicrobial
    Some of the best models have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. These keep your feet fresher and fungus-free.The odor control means you can take your boots off at the end of the day without having to apologize to your hiking buddies.

Do I Need Insoles?

If your hiking boots fit comfortably and feel great right out of the box then you may not need them. The ones your boot comes with will wear out eventually, so you may find that your comfort level decreases.

If you find that at the end of every day that your ankles and feet feel more sore or fatigued than they should then it might be time to invest in some decent insoles.

Even if your feet feel ok but you experience pain in your back, hips or knees then it might be a sign that you have some foot alignment or support issues.

If you suffer from plantar fasciitis then an insole can reduce the symptoms as well as correct your footfall to prevent them.

If you tend to overpronate, supinate or have other structural misalignment issues with your feet then an orthotic with a profile designed specifically for these characteristics will make for a much more comfortable hike.

Insoles are also great for alleviating the problems associated with the following common footwear fit problems:

  • Collapsed or low arches
    If you have low or collapsed arches then an insert that supports your entire foot in key areas will engage your arch muscles and distribute pressure more evenly instead of just on your heels and balls of your feet.
  • Heel Slippage
    Your hiking boots may fit great in the toe, fore and midfoot areas but might have too much volume around your heel. This can cause heel slippage and that friction leads to chafing and blisters. An insole can fill up that extra volume and keep your heel stabilized.
  • Foot elongation
    Some people find that their feet elongate when standing, especially when carrying extra weight. Some additional support for your feet can prevent this.

My Boots Don’t Fit Well. Will An Insole Fix This?

While it’s rare to find a hiking boot that fits 100% you do want to get it as close as possible. Inserts will not correct an ill-fitting boot.

You need to view the insole as the finishing touch that takes your boot from a pretty close fit to one that feels great. In fact, some of the best hiking boots are designed with additional foot room because they assume the wearer will want to insert an insole to round off the overall fit of the shoe.

If you have trouble finding a good fit then going for an in-store fitting is a good idea. Speak to a podiatrist or a hiking gear specialist, not just a shoe sales clerk.

Someone with actual hiking experience will be able to help you match a boot and insole to your particular foot needs.

How to Choose Insoles

There’s a good reason why one hiker may find a pair of boots extremely comfortable while another can’t wait to get them off. Our feet are different.

Just saying that you’re a size 9 doesn’t narrow down the shoe that you need. Feet vary in width. Some feet are flat while others have high arches. Orthotics vary in design and composition, depending on the foot they’ve been designed to cater for.

Here are a few general points to look out for as well as factors to consider for more specific needs:

Comfort vs Sport / Support Insoles

Decide on whether you’re looking for general purpose cushioning and shock absorption or if you’re trying to correct for a foot structure or gait issue.

For simple comfort you’ll be opting for a lower profile design. Within this category, you’ll sometimes see terms like single, double or full strike. This refers to where the majority of the shock absorption is focused. These insoles will have additional foot strike protection either on the heel, heel and forefoot, or entire foot respectively.

The “sport” or support insole will be more rigid and will have a more pronounced profile with orthotic design elements to correct or accommodate structural and gait issues.

Insole Profiles And Volume

Inserts come in different profiles and will occupy a varying degree of volume in your shoe. The higher the profile, the more variation in thickness you get along your foot.

A low profile insole will be flatter along its length. Your choice in profile is mainly dictated by the shape of your arches and the support you’re after.

The volume refers to the overall thickness and how much space it will occupy in the shoes or boots you wear.

  • Low Profile – For feet with strong arches that require minimal arch support. If you have very low arches then these would be your most comfortable option.
  • Medium Profile – Ideal for most foot types. Offers good arch support.
  • High Profile – For flat feet that need extra arch and heel support, or feet that tend to overpronate.
  • Low Volume – Thin for low-volume shoes.
  • Medium Volume – For medium volume hiking shoes and boots. Can be used on top of existing insoles.
  • High Volume – Ideal for use in higher volume hiking boots where you remove and replace the existing insole.

Choosing a high volume insole is normally your best bet for hiking while your choice in profile comes down to the structure, support or correction you need.

Arch Support

Do you need arch support? If you have good, strong arches then probably not. If you have flat feet, or weak arches then you’re going to need reliable arch support.

But to be truly comfortable and effective you need more than just arch support. Instead of just focusing on the arch area, you want one that stabilizes your heel and distributes the pressure across the base of your foot.

This stimulates and engages your arch muscles instead of just providing direct arch support.

Neutral arch design vs extra arch support

It’s important that the arch design matches the arches of your feet.

Wearing a high arch insole with feet that have low arches will be very uncomfortable. Wearing a neutral-arch insole, that offers minimal arch support, won’t give a high-arched or flat foot the support it needs.

If you don’t have any issues with your arches then opting for a neutral arch design will offer the most comfort.

The profile of an arch support insole will be designed to match the following arch types:

  • Low arches – Low profile with minimal arch support. The low profile nature makes them suitable for most shoes.
  • Medium arches – Offers medium arch support. Fits most hiking boots.
  • High arches – Maximum arch support. Fits in hiking boots with insole removed.

In addition to the above, if you’re a heavy person or you carry a heavy pack then make sure that it has a strong heel, is made from durable material and has cushioning and shock absorption that won’t bottom out under pressure.

Air Insoles vs Gel Insoles vs Foam Insoles

One of the main functions of the insert is to provide cushioning. The shock absorption is generally achieved by one of the following methods:

Air insoles
These use pressurized air bubbles trapped in the foam to deliver the shock absorption. As long as the air bubble remains trapped you get the cushioning you want without the compression that happens over time with simple foam.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Long lasting – reduced compression over time
Cons:

  • Expensive
Gel Insoles
These encapsulate liquid gel bubbles in the foam. They offer good comfort and offer good durability due to the gel’s resistance to compression. The gel is heavy though so they’re not great if you’re already wearing heavy shoes.

Pros:

  • Great shock absorption, very comfortable
  • Retain shape well – good durability
  • Easy to clean
Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Don’t breathe well

Foam Insoles
These are often made from memory foam. They mold to your feet ensuring more contact points between the sole and your feet for optimized energy transfer. These are very comfortable but aren’t as durable as the air or gel options.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Very comfortable, good shock absorption
  • Light

Cons:

  • Poor breathability
  • Not durable, foam compresses and wears out easily

How to fit insoles – What size do I need?

Normally an insole will be specified as falling within a range of shoe sizes. It’s normally better to aim at the upper end of your shoe size.

You can always trim it down a little but if you buy one that’s too small then there’s no fixing that.

Check the profile and volume of the insole too. If you wear thick socks when hiking you want to be sure there will still be space in the shoe once the insole is in there.

Shoe insert fitting tips

  • Try standing on it before slipping it into your shoe. Lift your one leg so that all your weight is applied to the insole, as it will be when you’re walking.
  • Your foot needs to feel stable with your heel securely cupped and supported. You also want to be sure that your heel doesn’t extend over the edge of the heel cup.
    If the insole is too narrow or if your toes extend beyond the end of the forefoot then consider a larger size.
  • Now remove the insole your shoe came with and insert the new one. With your foot in the laced up boot you need to feel stable, comfortable and well supported.
  • You also want to evaluate the volume. It should have your foot feel snug but not too tight in the shoe.

How to trim Superfeet Insoles

Your shoe will come with a factory fitted insole. If you remove it, you now have a perfect template to use to trim your new insole.

  • Position the factory one over your new one and line up the heel, forefoot and edges. Trace around it and then cut along the outline.
  • Support the front of your new insert as you slip it into the shoe so that the toe doesn’t curl up.
  • Make sure there is a small amount of wiggle room for it once it’s in the shoe. You may need to trim a little bit at a time until there’s just a little wiggle room.

Remember, you can always cut it smaller but there’s no cutting it bigger, so take your time.

Insole care tips

Eventually, even the best insole will lose its effectiveness. How long they last depends on the quality and how many miles you put on them.

The material will eventually become compressed to the point where it no longer gives you the support it once did. Thinner insoles will reach this point quicker than thicker ones will. There are some things you can do to extend the life on your insole though.

  • Take them out of your shoes and air the regularly
  • Wash them by hand using a mild detergent
  • Check periodically for wear to see if they need to be replaced

Your insoles aren’t going to last forever so be prepared to replace them when they show signs of wear. Spending a few dollars to save yourself sore feet on a long hike is worth it.

Buying the best insoles for hiking is probably the easiest way to make a dramatic difference to how good your feet feel at the end of the day.

Even if you have the best hiking boots and perfect feet, an insole with good cushioning and shock absorption will leave your feet feeling great after crushing those miles.

If you have plantar fasciitis, flat feet or suffer from fatigued feet on a hike, then a decent pair of orthotic insoles may give you the relief you’ve been hoping for.

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